Taxidermy – so hot right now. However, for Michael Buzza this fashion was 40 years or more in the making. He is the owner of the Museum of Natural History situated in the historic township of Guildford, West Australia. I have been there numerous times myself. A few times I marched up to the door only to find it closed. Once because they had just received a huge bullock that needed attention. Other times, for no apparent reason, but that it is a unique and independent institution which behaves according to its own needs.
The main thing I love about this museum is that it is an obvious exercise in individual passion, plus skill. This is one of the most exhilarating aspects of this museum. Mr Buzza’s attention to the objects of his expertise reveals his respect for the nature of his subjects. There are narratives, there is attention to detail in the natural environment of the creature, there is beauty. It is a most moving aspect of the museum, the skill combined with the knowledge, love and respect that the owner has towards the protagonists of the modest museum. Mr Buzza’s passion is genuine. So, albeit a relatively small space, the impact is huge and the rewards to the visitor magnificent.
The Museum is based in the old Guildford Theatre, thereby the museum’s presence also acts as a wonderful preservation of 19th century architecture. The building itself is a most apt setting for the menagerie of fauna inside. One only has to look up, and up to see more specimens – a floating wall of fish species, snakes, Australian natives, a tiger, strangely some fibreglass dinosaurs – it is an eclectic placement of characters, so in keeping with a Victorian salon sensibility. There is a sitting area (much like my 1970s era family loungeroom) to watch informative videos of Mr Buzza in action, and old media snippets. There is a library to peruse. There are cabinets and drawers full of curious specimens. Mr Buzza speaks of his childhood on the farm, and at the age of 10 his interest in taxidermy was sparked. I don’t believe this childhood curiosity and wonder for the natural world ever left the taxidermist, it fuels his collecting style.
Here at the Museum of Love and Mortality we are true believers in supporting the authentic experience. This is Australia’s most experienced taxidermist, and he has allowed his personal collection to be viewed by us, the humble public. This is a passionate collector – so when next in Perth, go and see.
Museum of Natural History
The Old Guildford Theatre
131 James Street
Guildford, Perth, West Australia
Entry: $5 and worth it